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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Executive held on 05/12/2006
Local Government White Paper - 'Strong and Prosperous Communities' - Waverley Response and Actions



APPENDIX L
Waverley Borough Council

EXECUTIVE – 5TH DECEMBER 2006
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Title:
LOCAL GOVERNMENT WHITE PAPER – ‘STRONG AND PROSPEROUS COMMUNITIES’ - WAVERLEY RESPONSE AND ACTIONS
[Wards Affected: All]
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Summary and purpose:

The Executive endorsed proposals at its last meeting on 9th November and agreed an initial course of action on the White Paper. This report updates the position and proposes that the Council accept the offer from the Leader of Surrey County Council to discuss further ways of improving the two-tier system, agrees a position on any proposals for a formal restructuring and suggests resources that could be applied to responding to the White Paper. It also suggests starting the preparation for some of the changes to the way the Council works that the White Paper advocates.
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Environmental implications:

The proposed reform of Local Government offers opportunities to make a positive contribution to a whole range of environmental issues, particularly climate change.

Social / community implications:

The White Paper suggests a fundamental reappraisal of the Council’s relationship with its community and the people for whom it provides services.

E-Government implications:

Again, the White Paper suggests that use of improved e-government can offer opportunities for better consultation and relationships with the community and for more responsive services at lower cost.

Resource and legal implications:

The Executive has already agreed to contribute 20,000 to a joint fund being set up by the district and borough councils in Surrey to do preparatory work for a response to the White Paper.
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Introduction

1. The Local Government SIG has already received summary papers on the impact of the White Paper for Waverley. A copy of a summary of the White Paper prepared by the Officers is attached as Annexe 1.

2. The Council now has to agree formally whether to respond to the Government deadline for any submissions relating to structure or enhanced two-tier working which have to be with the Department of Communities and Local Government by 25th January 2007. The Council also needs to agree a policy position to enable it to respond to challenges in the White Paper about reform.

Short Term Response on Structures

3. The Surrey district and borough councils leaders have been working together on ways of improving joint working and of improving the working relationship with Surrey County Council.

4. The Leader of Surrey County Council, Councillor Skellett, has proposed that Surrey, jointly with all the district and borough councils in the county area, should look urgently at radically improved two-tier working. This would use the criteria set out in the White Paper Annexe for a formal pathfinder submission to the Department of Communities and Local Government, but rather than submit a formal proposal, instead to use this as a discipline and benchmark for improvements to two-tier working. The District and Borough Leaders have embraced this offer and expressed their commitment to working to improve services to people in Surrey.

5. The Surrey District and Borough Leaders also agreed to accelerate joint Borough partnership working, particularly through the clusters of Councils previously identified. Officers have been working with their opposite numbers in Woking and Guildford to identify existing areas of joint working and explore new areas with potential for services or improve services.

6. The Executive at its last meeting discussed this proposal and felt it offered the potential for gaining all of the benefits of improved two-tier working and better co-ordination of services without the disruption which any form of formal restructuring and unitary council creation would involve.

7. The Surrey Boroughs and Districts Leaders also considered whether to respond to the invitation in the White Paper to submit joint proposals for unitary Councils based on the three identified clusters of Borough and District Councils. The Leaders did not feel that the costs of preparation of a formal submission and subsequently of any restructuring agreed by Government would be justified by improvements to services. Similarly, they agreed that any unilateral bid by Surrey County Council without Borough and District support could not be justified and should be opposed.

Resource and Legal Implications

8. The Executive agreed the proposed contribution of up to 20,000 from each district and borough council which would give the district and boroughs collectively over 200,000 to commission any necessary work to meet the Government’s demanding timescales. The Executive authorised the Managing Director and Director of Finance, in consultation with the Leader to agree on Waverley’s behalf to spending from this budget for specific joint projects.

Partnership Implications

9. One of the key challenges in the White Paper is to improve multi-tier local government in shire county areas. There is belated recognition by the Government in the White Paper of the role for Town and Parish Councils in representing their communities at neighbourhood level.

10. Waverley has already committed to working with its Town and Parishes in the particular democratic circumstances in the Borough of an active and healthy three tier system of local government and representation.

11. As part of this, the next Waverley wide meeting with Town and Parish Councils on 4th December is being asked if it is interested in developing the existing six monthly meetings into a more wide-ranging Waverley communities forum. The last few meetings have had inputs from Surrey Policy and Surrey Fire and Rescue, and the meeting is being asked if it wishes to set up a working group to devise proposals to build on this and broaden its role. These could include exploring ways of devolving services to the most appropriate level of local government.

Other Key Themes in the White Paper

Council Political Leadership

12. The Government is proposing to consult on proposals for “strengthening” political leadership by adopting one of three specified models for decision-making.

13. The White Paper also has proposals on electoral patterns. Waverley already has all-out elections every four years, as advocated by the Government, but does not have a uniform pattern of single Member Borough Wards. At the last electoral review, implemented at the 2003 elections, the Borough proposed and the Electoral Commission accepted a varying pattern of 1, 2 and 3 member wards according to the differing needs of communities across Waverley.

14. There are also proposals to strengthen the role of ward councillors and overview and scrutiny and the officers will report on these as they become clearer.

Devolution of Powers to Neighbourhoods

15. As discussed above, Waverley has committed to working through its Towns and Parishes.

Partnering and Joint Working

16. As discussed above, Waverley has agreed a protocol with Guildford and Woking Boroughs on this more generally, and under partnership working as appropriate.

Strategic Commissioning Role

17. Waverley has been working hard to develop its Local Strategic Partnership and to be given an input into County-wide local area agreements. In some areas such as the Joint Municipal Waste Strategy that has been driven by the Borough and District Councils this has been successful. In other areas the County Council has driven the process with Surrey Borough Councils being less involved.

18. The Local Government Association has submitted a response to the White Paper, and a copy is attached as Annexe 2.


Conclusion

19. Waverley needs to agree a formal position on any proposals for structural change to local government in Surrey. Officers also propose that the Council responds to the challenges in the White Paper and reinforces its efforts to develop joint working with other Borough Councils, Town and Parish Councils and Surrey County Council.

Recommendations

It is recommended that the Executive recommends to the Council that:

1. Waverley does not submit any proposal in response to the White Paper for any form of restructuring to establish new Unitary Councils;

2. Waverley commits to working with Surrey County Council to improve services within the improvement framework put forward by the Government, but does not submit a formal pathfinder bid;

3. Waverley accordingly would not support any bid by Surrey County Council for a county-wide unitary Council;

4. Waverley reaffirms its commitment to working with its Town and Parish Councils as a key part of the active three tier system of local government in the Borough, and works with the Towns and Parishes to develop a communities form for all levels of local government in Waverley; and

5. Officers be encouraged to develop their work with colleagues in Woking and Guildford under the agreed protocol to secure improvements to services for people in the three Boroughs and other partners as appropriate, for the benefit of the Borough’s residents.

Background Papers (MD)

There are no background papers (as defined by Section 100D(5) of the Local Government Act 1972) relating to this report.
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CONTACT OFFICER:

Name: Robin Pellow Telephone: 01483 523222
E-mail: rpellow@waverley.gov.uk

Stephen Thwaites Telephone: 01483 523463
E-mail: sthwaites@waverley.gov.uk


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